Frodo and Denethor

by Lothithil

Chapter 8:
Another Journey In The Dark

The rubble-pile was actually an extensive cave-in that had been dug out a bit and bolstered by odd pieces of wood and blocks of stone. Frodo had to crawl a fair distance before he came out into the wider tunnel. The air was musty. It was utterly dark until he came into sight of the lamps that Bergil and Peregrin had lit. They shone wetly on the walls and floor. The roof was webbed with roots that had forced their way down through the soil and had found cracks into the hewn stone.

Pippin helped Frodo manage his pack while he climbed down the slope of loose stones. Sam could be heard coming further behind. Frodo sat down on a rock and shivered; it was chilly down there, and he was still tired and heart-weary.

Peregrin sat down next to him, and he slipped his hand into Frodo's. He had wondered often, once he and Merry had escaped the orcs, if they would ever see Frodo again. Pippin knew Merry would be gladdened to hear that Frodo was alive and that Pippin had seen him, but he wasn't sure how his cousin would react to learn that Pippin and Gandalf had let Frodo go again, straight back into the darkest danger in the land.

Pippin had seen the Eye, had even spoken with Sauron himself. He did not want to go to Mordor; did not want Frodo and Sam to go there, either. But he knew that it had to be done, and that it was beyond his doing. Reason or no reason, the young hobbit feared for his brave cousin and wanted to be near him for as long as he was able.

Frodo squeezed his hand back, and Pippin thought he saw him smile in the gloom. "Guard of the Citadel," he heard Frodo murmur. Pippin blushed in the darkness. "I wonder what Elrond would say, if he saw you in that armour?"

"Gandalf still calls me a 'fool', but he calls himself that, too." Pippin said. "He is different that he was... merrier, almost. And more powerful, too."

They sat silent for a short time, then Frodo asked, "What did happen, Pippin? To Boromir? Did you see him..." Frodo trailed off, not wanting to increase the darkness.

"No. We were captured by the orcs before he died. He spoke to Aragorn with his last breath, telling him that we had been taken. They weren't sure at first, Legolas and Gimli, if you were with us or not, but Aragorn figured out that you had taken a boat east. He decided to follow the orcs to try to rescue Merry and I." Pippin paused, and Frodo realized with surprise that Pippin was weeping! "I'm sorry, Frodo! If Merry and I had stayed behind... maybe, Strider could have guided you and you would have made it safe to Mordor and back by now!"

Frodo wrapped his arms around his cousin. Sam had appeared finally, pushing his large pack ahead of him. Bergil helped him while Frodo comforted Pippin. "Gandalf is right; you are a fool, Peregrin Took! If you hadn't come with us, then my road would have been far grimmer. Safe to Mordor! That is impossible, even if I were accompanied by a host of Elves! Aragorn chose wisely, and I bless him for going after you and Merry. I should have left the company long before I did. It was pure selfishness that I stayed so long. But still, if I had left earlier, a worse story might be told.

"All things seem to happen for a reason, Pippin, is what I am trying to say. I don't understand it always, but I am learning. Sometimes you just have to try, and even if you don't do what you set yourself to do, your intention makes a difference somewhere. Here, dry those eyes before you break my heart! Sam's here and we're ready to go. Do you want to rest for a little, Sam?"

"I'm fine, Mr Frodo! Let's get this road behind us! I don't like these damp tunnels... they seem unhospitable. Not that I'm looking forward going back, mind. At least here, there ain't no orcs." And no Gollum, added Sam, inside his head.

The tunnels seemed to go on for ever. They travelled steadily, Pippin and Bergil each bearing a lantern to light their steps. Other tunnel mouths opened right and left, but many of these were choked with rocks and dirt, dead-ending within a few paces of the opening. Where each tunnel intersected with theirs, the walls were reinforced with ancient masondry, whereas along the straight lenghts it was merely hewed from the stone.

At one point, the way was utterly blocked with fallen earth but Bergil led them swiftly down yet another tunnel where they were forced to walk through chilly water. Fortunately, it was not deep, coming but to the hobbit's knees. Then for an endless time they moved on, stopping for a brief rest only infrequently. Each of them had become increasingly uncomfortable in the long dark winding ways.

Frodo was wondering if morning had come to the world overhead when suddenly right above them came a sound like muffled thunder. The walls started shaking and a fine rain of dust began to fall, making them wheeze and sneeze.

"What is that?" asked Sam, bracing himself against a damp wall.

Bergil pressed his ear to the stone. In the lamplight, the young man reminded Frodo sharply of Strider, a shorter version of Strider, that is, back when he had led them through the wild lands of Eriador. "It might be an earth-shake," the boy said, "Sometimes that happens here. But I am not sure that is what is happening now... I think there is something moving across the fields above. Something heavy."

"Or many somethings, marching." Frodo's eyes were drawn upward to the arched roof. "The war has begun. We must hurry! How much further, Master Bergil?"

They ran as quickly as they could in the cramped tunnels. The rumbling continued. It was hard to breathe with all the dust in the air, but they pressed onward, until the tunnel opened into a larger chamber pierced with many openings, leading in every direction.

Bergil led them without hesitation into a left-hand opening, and instantly Frodo noticed that they were now travelling northward. They hurried this way for a time. The tunnel bent smoothly to the right and became a stone-lined canal with a narrow, deep trench running down the center of the floor, clogged with dry mud. An odor of riverwater and waste came to their noses. They had reached the sewers of Osgiliath.

"Quietly," Bergil whispered, "Sound will carry far in these tunnels." He led them on, counting silently as they passed other small tunnels, some trickling water into the larger canal. They covered their noses but it did not help. The water was fouled and noisome.

Now Bergil showed them a small passage that led off of the main way, and it turned upward sharply, coming to an end with a rusted metal grate that was twisted and damaged. They slipped through and smelled the open air. A few steps would lead them outside. But the sunlight they were hoping to see glinting through the bars was weak. Frodo cautiously stepped forward and peeked outside.

The sky was brown, like the violence of a spring storm. Great banks of black fumes were being blown over the Mountains of Shadow and had come smothering over the lands, blocking all light from the sky. There was the noise of marching feet, growing louder, shouts and snarls from the orcs and men heading to battle in the plains. The stones of the ruined city seemed to echo with the sounds. Most of the noise seemed to be coming from the west, across the river.

Frodo turned back, and he looked at his guides. "Now comes our parting, my friends. Master Bergil, I cannot thank you enough for showing me the way. We should have been hopelessly lost in all those turning and twistings! Get you back now to the City safely and take my cousin with you." Bergil saluted him, then stood back as Peregrin embraced Frodo a last time. Frodo nearly had to pry his arms from around him; he did not want to let his cousin go, either. Pippin also hugged Samwise, then he turned and raised his head, trying to look brave though his face coursed with tears. He followed Bergil down the tunnel and the light of their lanterns faded from sight.

Sam hefted his pack and looked at his master. Frodo was staring back toward the tunnel where Pippin had gone. Faintly, they heard rumbling again. "I hope those tunnels hold up until they get back, Mr Frodo. I would hate to think of those two young 'un trapped on this side of the river. I don't think much of being here myself!"

"Nor do I, Sam." Frodo looked back outside, and saw a large host of orcs appear, marching along the road that wound back toward the black mountains ahead. "Nor do I," he repeated softly.